BRENTWOOD — Embattled Rockingham County Attorney James Reams announced on Tuesday that he will not seek re-election in 2014 but will continue to fight the attorney general's decision to suspend him amid an investigation into his office.
"As part of my obligation to the voters who re-elected me, I will continue to seek legal remedies to clear my name and to regain my law enforcement authority to serve Rockingham County," Reams said in a statement. "I am confident that I will ultimately be exonerated."
Reams was suspended on Nov. 6, days after the state Attorney General's Office and the FBI began an investigation into his office.
State prosecutors have acknowledged the multi-faceted probe involves sexual harassment, management of a forfeiture account and allegations that Reams failed to disclose that one of his employees had a possible credibility issue after she testified in a criminal trial.
On Tuesday, Reams said in his statement that his law enforcement authority was stripped from him without notice, and that he had no opportunity to respond to "the unknown allegations."
Associate Attorney General Jane Young said the investigation remains ongoing and she could not comment further.
The investigation has drawn the ire of some county delegation members, and mired the budget process into a debate about whether Reams' should be heeded over budget matters instead of interim County Attorney James Boffetti.
Reams' announcement that he would not seek re-election comes one week after Salem police prosecutor Jason Grosky, a Republican from Atkinson, announced that he would challenge Reams in this fall's primary.
Reams has largely been uncontested since first winning his post in 1998. He remains on paid leave, collecting his $85,000 annual salary.
Grosky gave Reams credit for his decision not to run for another two-year term, but said he should leave the post entirely.
"For the sake of the prosecutors and employees in his office and the people of Rockingham County, I would encourage him to take the next step and resign," Grosky said.
Reams suggested that he would have remained a viable candidate had he decided to run for a ninth term.
"Countless supporters have encouraged me to run for re-election, and I am humbled and honored by their support," he said. "However, I do not want my current legal proceedings to overshadow the need for a healthy debate on the future leadership of the Rockingham County's office, which would be unavoidable if I ran for reelection."
Reams thanked his supporters over the last 16 years, and said he did not intend to make any more statements about his decision not to seek re-election. He referred all questions about his ongoing legal battles to his attorney, Michael Ramsdell.
Ramsdell said that Reams has been considering not running for re-election for some time. He said that Reams feels obligated to serve out his term, given that voters put him in office to carry out the job of county attorney.
"He feels that he owes them a debt for placing that trust in him," Ramsdell said. "Whatever accusations are going to be made against him, he wants to clear his name."
Ramsdell also maintained that Reams was illegally displaced from the county attorney's office — located at the county courthouse — because he is a constitutional officer elected by the people, and not a traditional employee.
Two employees who were suspended alongside Reams, his longtime deputy Tom Reid, and victim-witness advocate Tara Longo, have resigned.
Reams is due back in Merrimack County Superior Court March 10 to make further legal arguments contesting Attorney General Joseph Foster's authority to suspended him from elected office.